Feeling the heat: Surviving Soaring Temperatures at Work

Through the summer months, temperatures generally start to rise and even in England we are likely to experience heat waves.  Working in unusual levels of heat can be very uncomfortable but there is no law to advise us on what the maximum temperature is for being “too hot to work”.

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  • Working in the Heat

However, there is reference in health and safety at work law that employers should keep temperatures at a comfortable level – this can be known as “thermal comfort” – so, what does this actually equate to?

According to the HSE, the factors which usually cause discomfort in the workplace are:

🟪 Air temperature. This is the temperature of the air surrounding the body.

🟨 Radiant temperature.  This comes from thermal radiation, which is the heat which radiates from a warm object. Examples of radiant heat sources include the sun, fire, electric fires and ovens.

🟧 Air velocity.  This is the speed with which the air is travelling across the employee – it may help to cool them if it is cooler than the general environment.

🟩 Humidity.  The evaporation of sweat from our skin is our bodies’ main method of heat reduction, but less sweat can evaporate in humid environments. 

🟦 Clothing insulation.  Being able to add layers of clothing when we feel cold, and remove some when we feel hot, is a core way for us to regulate our temperatures.  But some companies prevent this ability when they need to enforce the wearing of a uniform of PPE.

🟥 Metabolic heat – from physical characteristics.  Even if all of the above elements remain constant, it’s important to take into account the variable characteristics that differ from employee to employee.  Size and weight, age, fitness level and sex can all play a part in how a person’s body deals with temperature.

It’s not always solely seasonal variations which can create workplace heat though – it can also occur in specific environments due to the processes being used.  For example, a glass-blowing studio would generate excessive heat all year round due to the furnaces involved in the craft.

Here are some tips HSE recommends to keep temperatures as comfortable as possible:

👉 Take regular breaks, depending on the nature of your work.

👉 Stay hydrated with cold drinks, but avoid fizzy drinks. 

👉 Utilise air conditioning and fans.

👉 Consider installing blinds on the windows for office workers.

👉 Wear layers of clothing and lighter versions of PPE.

👉 If possible, change to working “summer hours”, i.e. starting earlier and finishing earlier in the day during the summer months.

If you feel like your working conditions are too hot it’s time to talk to your employer – discuss the issues together to find solutions.

💡 If you are an employer who needs to assess your staff’s working environment, and need support to ensure you are covering all of the bases to keep them comfortable, get in touch with us.



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